Monday, February 1, 2010

A belated mention of Glen Bell

This story is a couple of weeks old, and I apologize for the delay. David Allen covered the deaths of two people with local connections, including Glen Bell. If the last name sounds familiar, it should - he has a taco restaurant named after him. However, as the Press-Enterprise noted, his influence extends far beyond the chalupa:

Mr. Bell, best known for starting the Taco Bell chain...was one of several Inland [Empire] entrepreneurs who recognized that the car culture that developed in the late 1940s was turning the public into an eat-and-go society.

The longtime San Bernardino resident not only originated the fast-food taco, but also worked with one-time employee John Galardi to start what became the Der Wienerschnitzel hot dog chain. Another employee, Ed Hackbarth, went on to open what is now known as Del Taco.

"If you think about it, except for pizza, just about every kind of fast food started right here in the Inland Empire," said Jack Brown, a longtime friend of Bell and chairman of Stater Bros. Markets.

Brown said Mr. Bell was one of a handful of local icons -- including Neal Baker and the McDonald brothers -- who not only transformed the American restaurant and culinary landscape but also spawned an industry that now employs thousands of Inland and U.S. workers.

For those who don't live in the Inland Empire area, "Baker" is also a significant name among fast food eaters out here. But Baker and Bell chose different paths. As Baker's widow notes:

"Neal just decided he wanted to keep his restaurants local, so he didn't go with national franchising."

Bell, on the other hand, sold his Taco Bell chain to PepsiCo in 1978; it is now part of Yum Brands.

So while people think of Los Angeles as the center of the movie industry, the 909 is known as the birthplace of several fast food chains.
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